WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Paul Flaman is the author of Homosexuality and Following Jesus.
While theology professor Paul Flaman has received positive feedback to his new book Homosexuality and Following Jesus, he expects the ultimate reaction will be mixed.
A priest-psychologist once told him, "It's practically impossible to say anything significant about homosexuality without getting somebody mad at you."
Nevertheless, Flaman is out to sow understanding, not division, all the while making the Catholic teaching clear to his readers.
"The issue has come much more to the forefront with television shows like Oprah and Ellen," Flaman said in an interview.
"The main view presented in the popular media is that homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality. Some Christians even see homosexuality as part of God's diverse gifts, and they celebrate same-sex marriages in their churches."
All people have a need for friendship and intimacy, responds Flaman, who has been teaching Christian theology at St. Joseph's College since 1983. Yet, our society tends to reduce intimacy to sexual or genital intimacy.
"I argue that the individual does not need sexual/genital intimacy to survive as a person. One can live without it and actually be quite fulfilled if one experiences God's love and healthy human friendships."
When same-sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2003, Flaman sensed that teaching on the subject would become even more challenging. He did more reading and research on the subject.
In 2004, he proposed an idea for a paper at a conference of Catholic scholars. As the Church was being accused of not listening to the experiences of homosexuals, Flaman started writing.
Doing so confirmed his conviction that there is indeed a unity of truth - human experience and science properly understood do not contradict what God has revealed in this area.
He attended a conference of Courage, a Catholic support group for people with homosexual attractions. A common thread among people with same-sex tendencies is that they have experienced tremendous suffering.
"Some of them were made fun of or ridiculed in childhood or adolescence. There have been a lot of attempts to make our schools more open and accepting, but children can sometimes be quite cruel."
Through Courage, many people with homosexual attractions have focused on living Christ-centred lives and adhering to chastity. Living in accordance with Church teachings, many of them have shown diminished homosexual desires.
When Flaman began drafting his thoughts on the subject for his scholarly article, he quickly realized that a small book would be necessary. The end result is Homosexuality and Following Jesus (Toronto and New York: BPS Books), a 181-page book available from Amazon and other booksellers.
Flaman hopes his book will contribute to the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer for unity by promoting dialogue, understanding, healing, forgiveness and loving as Jesus loves.
"We don't find Jesus saying anything explicitly about homosexuality," he said.
"But in my own reflecting, if Jesus is the light of the world, could he not shed some light on this complex, confusing issue? It's been divisive in churches, countries and families."
Flaman's basic assertion is that Jesus calls us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and to respond to the real needs of others.
Although the book is meant primarily to help those who experience same-sex erotic attractions, it can also assist their family members and friends, pastors and teachers, and others.
While the book integrates a lot of research, it should appeal to a wide adult audience.
The experiences and insights of men and women with same-sex erotic attractions are incorporated into the text of Homosexuality and Following Jesus. Flaman's goal is to show that the Gospel does have teachings relevant to homosexuality and that it is indeed "Good News" for all people.
Catholic teaching is in many ways counter-cultural, so he acknowledges that dealing with the issue of homosexuality in a Catholic college located amidst a large, secular university has its difficulties.
However, he pointed to the example of Pope John Paul II who advised Catholics to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." This principle applies to conversations involving people with homosexual tendencies.
"We might initially have a certain stereotype or judgments about a person, but when we come to know them better and really listen, we can appreciate them more as a person," said Flaman.